Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cartoonist of the Month-Apr. 2011

Jack H. Smith (?-?)

Jack H. Smith is a cartoonist seemingly lost in the dim past. He was one of three brothers who attended Indiana University. Jack started out majoring in mathematics before switching to philosophy. One of his professors suggested that he submit his drawings for publication, and that's how his career in art began. Smith became editor, illustrator, and staff of the inaugural issue of the I.U. Illustrator in November 1897. After five years in Bloomington and some cartooning experience under his belt, he went to work for the Indianapolis Press in about 1899. His canine mascot (also called a dingbat), dubbed "Calamity," was well known to Indianapolis newspaper readers at the time. When the Press folded in 1901, Smith went to the Nashville News before returning to Indianapolis to become front-page cartoonist for the Indianapolis Journal. Jack H. Smith's trail then goes cold. By about 1910, he was working in New York City. Nothing more is known of his life or career. If anyone has any information, please send it my way.

A cartoon from Judge from about 1910. This is actually the first of two panels, the second of which is signed "J.H. Smith." Is that the Hoosier cartoonist Jack H. Smith? The time and place are right, and the name matches, but how many Smiths are there in the world? In any case, that's a fine horse and cowboy and a drawing well worth a second look, even after one hundred years. Update (Apr. 2, 2019): An unknown commenter (below) points out that this is the work of another I-state artist, Jerome Howard Smith (1861-1941) of Illinois. Thanks for the information, Unknown.

Text and captions copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley

Cartoonist of the Month-Mar. 2011

Emmett Kelly (1898-1979)

Everyone knows Emmett Kelly as sad-faced Weary Willie, the circus clown who entertained millions during his quarter-century under the big top. Almost unknown is the fact that Kelly worked as an animator before running off to join the circus.

Emmett Leo Kelly was born on Dec. 9, 1898, in Sedan, Kansas, and grew up on a Missouri farm. A largely self-taught artist, Kelly went to work for the Adagram Film Company in Kansas City as a cartoonist sometime around 1920. A decade before Weary Willie came along, Kelly brought his first clown character to life on paper for what some have claimed was an advertisement for a bread company. In 1921, Kelly joined Howe's Great London Circus. A decade later, his career as a clown took off when he assumed the identity of Weary Willie. Kelly remained in that role for most of his life. Incidentally, Walt Disney worked for an outfit called the Kansas City Film Ad Company around 1920. The Adagram Film Company may well have been the same firm that employed Walt Disney. In any case, it seems likely that the two young cartoonists ran into each other in that small world of 1920.

Time was when circuses made their winter home in Peru, Indiana. Kelly was among many circus performers to call the Hoosier State home. During the 1920s, he worked in Indianapolis and other towns in Indiana. After his death, on Mar. 28, 1979, in Sarasota, Florida, he was buried in another northern Indiana city, Lafayette, next to his mother and sister.

Text copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley

Cartoonist of the Month-Feb. 2011

Bill Justice (1914-2011)

The life of animator Bill Justice was bracketed by February days. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, on Feb. 9, 1914, but graduated high school in Indianapolis in 1931. After high school, Justice attended the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, but he apparently did not complete his degree. Walt Disney may have had something to do with that. In the mid-1930s, Disney was in the middle of something that had never been done before: he was making a feature-length animated cartoon. Justice heeded the call of the Disney studios and--like scores of other cartoonists--headed west to work on Snow White, which premiered at the end of 1937 and was released nationwide on  Feb. 4, 1938, during the week of Bill Justice's twenty-fourth birthday.

That was the beginning of Justice's decades-long association with the Disney studios. Over the years, he worked as an animator and director on some of the studio's favorite features and shorts: Fantasia, Bambi, Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and Make Mine Music. As an "Imagineer," he was also instrumental in the development of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. His memoir, Justice for Disney (1992), seems to have a double meaning in its title, but if you want to read what the author has to say, be prepared to pay: the book is very hard to come by.

Bill Justice died on Feb. 11, 2011, two days after his ninety-seventh birthday.

Text copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley

Cartoonist of the Month-Jan. 2011

C.L. Moore (1911-1987)

Catherine L. Moore of Indianapolis was not a cartoonist. So why, you ask, is she here on a blog about cartoonists? I'll get to that, but first the facts. Catherine L. Moore, known as C.L. Moore, was one of the most important women writers of science fiction and fantasy during the first four decades of the twentieth century. Before she came along, those fields were long on science (or pseudoscience) and short on feeling and color. Catherine changed that, beginning with her first story, "Shambleau," printed in Weird Tales in Nov. 1933. "Up to that time," wrote Lester del Rey, "science-fiction readers had accepted the mechanistic and unemotional stories of other worlds and future times without question. After the publication of Moore's story ["Shambleau"], however, the bleakness of such writing would never again be satisfactory." Although "Shambleau" is probably her most well known and widely read story, Catherine wrote many more, alone and in collaboration, over the next quarter century.

C.L. Moore wrote for pulp and digest magazines of science fiction and fantasy--but never for the comics. However, her work has been adapted to comics at least twice, first, in a French magazine called V-Magazine, in the summer of 1955. The artist was Jean-Claude Forest (1930-1998) who went on to greater fame as the creator of Barbarella. Forest's version of C.L. Moore's famous story is not quite in a comic book format. You might say that in its mix of text and illustrations, it's about halfway between Prince Valiant and a Big Little Book. Here's the title page:

Despite the revival of interest in pulp fiction during the 1960s and '70s, no one sought to make further adaptations of Catherine's work. Finally, in his never-ending search for material for his Marvel Conan stories, Roy Thomas struck upon Catherine's little known "Werewoman" as a source for an adaptation. "Werewoman" was originally printed in an obscure journal called Leaves in the winter of 1938-1939. Thomas' version, drawn by Robert Brown and Rey Garcia, appeared in The Savage Sword of Conan #221 in May 1994.

And that is it. Despite the richness of C.L. Moore's fiction, comic book writers and artists have apparently not discovered her work, or if they have, they simply haven't been up to the challenge. That may not be so bad, especially now, in this age of unremarkable comic book art.

This year marks C.L. Moore's centennial. You can read more about her on my blogs, Indiana Illustrators and Tellers of Weird Tales. As for Jean-Claude Forest, see his website here.

Text copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley

Cartoonist of the Month-Dec. 2010

Robert J. Wildhack (1881-1940)

Cartoonist and illustrator Robert J. Wildhack was born on August 27, 1881, in the central Illinois town of Pekin, but he graduated high school in Indianapolis. That's also where he got his start as an artist (with the Indianapolis Sentinel) and in show business (with a singing group called the Breadbox Quartet). After the turn of the century, Wildhack set off for New York City. Within a decade or so of his arrival, he had become one of the top magazine cover artists and poster artists in America. Wildhack performed in vaudeville and on the Broadway stage. He was also on the radio and in three movies during the 1930s. His career was cut short upon his death, June 19, 1940, in Montrose, California. You can read more about him on my blog, Indiana Illustrators, here.

Text copyright 2011 by Terence Hanley

In the News-Alexis Fajardo

Peanuts and Kid Beowulf Artist Alexis Fajardo Featured

Originally posted Jan. 5, 2011
Cartoonist and comic book artist Alexis Fajardo has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate website. A native of New Hampshire and a graduate of Earlham University of Richmond, Indiana, Mr. Fajardo works by day  at the Charles Schulz Studio in Santa Rosa, California. By night he labors over his own series of graphic novels starring Kid Beowulf. Bowler Hat Comics of Portland, Oregon, has already published two books in the series, Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath and Kid Beowulf and the Song of Roland. Mr. Fajardo is working on a third title and has ideas for ten more to follow. You can read the whole story here, and you can find out more about Kid Beowulf at Fajardo's website, called, naturally enough, "Kid Beowulf."

In the News-David Horsey

Editorial Cartoonist David Horsey Holding a Cartooning Marathon for Election Day

Originally posted Nov. 2, 2010
In an attempt to keep up with fast-breaking Election Day news, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist David Horsey is holding a twelve-hour cartooning marathon, from noon until midnight, today, Tuesday, November 2, 2010. You can read more about it on Mr. Horsey's blog, on the website of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, here.

Mr. Horsey has weighed in on the controversy over depicting the prophet Mohammed in cartoons. Soon after Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris announced plans for an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," she received word from the FBI that she should go into hiding to avoid reprisal. In response, Mr. Horsey wrote a brief essay which begins: "There is no sane or humane creed that would justify putting Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris on an execution list, but there is little that is sane or humane about radical Islam." You can read the entire essay and more about the controversy on the website of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

Copyright 2010 Terence E. Hanley

In the News-John McCutcheon

John T. McCutcheon Featured on Moment of Indiana History

Originally posted Nov. 2, 2010
Indiana Public Media recently featured a Hoosier cartoonist on its radio program, Moment of Indiana History. The subject was John T. McCutcheon (1870-1946), onetime dean of American political cartoonists and longtime front-page cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune. Born in South Raub, Indiana, McCutcheon graduated from Purdue University in 1889. That's where he met his fast friend and sometime collaborator, humorist George Ade. In addition to being a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, McCutcheon was also a foreign correspondent and adventurer. He even owned his own Caribbean island. The full story can be found on the website of Indiana Public Media, here. You can find more art by John McCutcheon on my blog, Indiana Illustrators, at

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

In the News-Ron Rogers

Ron Rogers Laid Off at the South Bend Tribune

Originally posted Sept. 20, 2010
Ron Rogers, believed to be the only black editorial cartoonist on staff with an American newspaper, recently lost his job with the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune. As a teenager, Rogers dreamed of being the nation's first black editorial cartoonist. His dream became a reality in Aug. 2005 when he hired on with the Tribune. His last cartoon was published in the Sept. 3, 2010, issue of the paper. Look for the full story at the website of Editor and Publisherhere.

Note: Ron Rogers is now working as a freelance editorial cartoonist. You can see his cartoons at the website of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC), here.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

In the News-Dale Messick

Dale Messick Featured in Traces

Posted Sept. 17, 2010
Traces, the magazine of the Indiana Historical Society, has just sent out its summer issue, and among its contents is an article called "Dalia Messick: Creator of Brenda Starr" by Joan Meister. Dalia, or Dale Messick as she was known to readers of the comics, was one of the first successful female cartoonists in the United States.  Born on Apr. 11, 1906, in South Bend, Indiana, she broke into syndication with Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter (later just Brenda Starr Reporter) in 1940. In forty-three years of drawing the strip, Messick never missed a deadline. Dale Messick died in 2005, a year and a week short of her century mark.

Brenda Starr continues as a daily and Sunday comic strip under the guidance of June Brigman and Mary Schmich. (To my knowledge, all the lead creators on Brenda Starr have been women, although Messick was assisted by a number of men, including Mike Grell, creator of Warlord for DC Comics.) If you want to see Messick's original art, you'll find a large collection of dailies at the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

Copyright 2010, 2011 Terence E. Hanley

In the News-Little Orphan Annie

Little Orphan Annie Comes to an End

Originally posted Sept. 15, 2010
After eighty-six years in the comics, Little Orphan Annie, that indomitable chatterbox with the auburn locks, bid farewell in mid-story on Sunday, June 13, 2010. Annie's creator, Harold Gray, was born on Jan. 20, 1894, in Kankakee, Illinois, but lived in Indiana as a child and graduated from Purdue University in 1917. At its height, Little Orphan Annie appeared in hundreds of newspapers and made Gray one of the most well known (and controversial) cartoonists in America. Gray passed away in 1968. His work has been carried on by a number of artists and writers, most recently Ted Slampyak and Jay Maeder. Annie will go on, just not on the comics page. See the full story on the website of the New York Daily News, here.

Text and captions copyright 2010, 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Little Alpha Annie, Tuesday, August 5, 1924 . . .
And Little Omega Annie, Sunday, June 13, 2010.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cartoonist of the Month-Nov. 2010

Grover Page (1892-1958)

Originally posted Nov. 2010
Grover Page wasn't born in Indiana, nor did he work here, but for seventeen years, he crossed the Ohio River from his home in the Hoosier State to the offices of the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he drew a daily cartoon.

Page was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, on November 10, 1892, only a few days after the election of Grover Cleveland to the presidency. That’s how the future cartoonist got his Christian name. He decided at age ten on his calling and began drawing at the Gastonia public schools--in art class and out. "I had to find something to do in Latin class," he often said, "so I drew." Page completed his formal education at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

Page became an editorial cartoonist at age eighteen with the Baltimore Sun. After working for the Nashville Tennessean for two years, Page moved on to the Louisville Courier-Journal. He spent the next thirty-nine years there drawing pointed and strongly opinionated cartoons. For the first seventeen of those years, Page lived in New Albany, Indiana, just across the river from Louisville. He and his son, Grover Page, Jr., were also fine artists and members of the Wonderland Way Art Club of New Albany. Page senior also worked as an illustrator and won many art awards during his years in Indiana.

Page’s long career came to an end with his death on August 5, 1958. His successor at the Courier-Journal was Hugh Haynie.

Grover Page cartooned for the Louisville Courier-Journal for nearly four decades and lived in Indiana for about half that time. Here's a cartoon, captioned "Consultation," from the mid part of his career. Czechoslovakia is understandably alarmed as the powers of Europe discuss his fate.

Text and captions copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley

Cartoonist of the Month-Oct. 2010

Roy W. Taylor (1876-1914)

Originally posted Oct. 2010
Early newspaper comics were everything that comics today are not: big, adventurous, innovative, violent, and politically incorrect. For every ethnic group, there was a comic strip that poked fun and perhaps helped ease relations among the myriad groups poured into the American melting pot. The Katzenjammer Kids (1897) was an early example, one of the earliest in fact. In our hypersensitive age, the Captain or Hans and Fritz's Mamma, with their plump bodies and comical accents, could be taken as unfair stereotypes. Or you can look at them as just plain funny.

Pioneering cartoonist Roy W. Taylor made his own contribution to ethnic comic strips with Yens Yansen Yanitor, a Sunday page drawn for the New York World between 1906 and 1912. The title character is a skinny Scandinavian with a bushy mustache and a clay pipe. The example here plays like an episode of Happy Hooligan as Yens' scheme falls apart and he is hauled away by a policeman. In a mere six panels, the cartoonist fits in three ethnic characters, two of which, the Italian organ grinder and the Irish cop, are drawn from stock.

Roy W. Taylor was born in Nov. 1876 into a Richmond, Indiana, family. Little is known about his early life, but during the first part of the twentieth century, he cartooned for the Chicago Daily News, the New York World, and the Philadelphia North American. His earliest known comic strip was Brainy Bowers, which began appearing in the Chicago Daily News in about 1901. Taylor was succeeded on that strip by Ed Carey (1870-1918), one of the most popular and prolific cartoonists of his day. By the time Taylor gave up Brainy Bowers, he had already started Yens Yensen Yanitor. Three other short-run strips for the New York World followed: Mrs. Firstlove (1908), Mr. Meanto (1910-1911), and Uncle Mose (1911-1912). Yens Yensen outlasted them all and came to an end in Sept. 1912.

Towards the end of his career, Taylor made the move to the Philadelphia North American. He soon fell ill with Bright's disease. Nearing death, he was taken to his mother's house in Washington, D.C., where he died at age thirty-six, on Oct. 20, 1914. His body was delivered to Richmond for burial.   

You can see pictures of Brainy Bowers on a blog called Yesterday's Papershere.
Yens Yensen Yanitor was one of Hoosier cartoonist Roy W. Taylor's entries in the long list of ethnic comic strips of his day. The date for this episode is unknown, but Yens Yensen ran in the New York World from 1906 to 1912.
Text and captions copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley

Cartoonist of the Month-Sept. 2010

Cobb Shinn (1887-1951)
Originally posted Sept. 2010

A hundred years ago, before Facebook, Twitter, and all our modern wonders, Americans were enthralled by the possibilities of a new medium, the picture postcard. In the early years of the twentieth century, millions of postcards flew through the mail every year. Other than the telephone, they were perhaps the quickest and most convenient medium of communication available. Postage was a penny and delivery came as often as twice a day. You didn't have to wait long or pay much to send a message (or a mash note) to a friend. Printers and publishers rushed to fill the demand, and a young artist from Indiana was Johnny-on-the-spot. His name was Cobb Shinn, and at the height of his career, his postcard designs sold twenty-five million units a year.

Conrad X. Shinn, later known as "Cobb" or "Uncle Cobb," was born on Sept. 4, 1887, in Fillmore, Indiana, and grew up on the west side of Indianapolis. He studied at the Herron School of Art under William Forsyth and William Merle Allison (later a comic book artist of note). In 1907, at the outset of Shinn's art career, the first postcards with divided backs appeared. That development freed up the front of the card for graphic embellishment. Shinn jumped into postcard design and eventually created 165 different series involving cars, drunks, kids, and pretty women. He also illustrated verse by the Hoosier Poet, James Whitcomb Riley.

Once the picture-postcard craze died down, Shinn drew cartoon features for newspapers and illustrations for children's books. In the 1920s he went into the business of selling what we now call clip art. Cobb Shinn married Ramona Bowin in 1925, and the couple lived near Greenwood, south of Indianapolis. Shinn was described as "a cheerful man who liked to study people, smoked cigars occasionally, and had a homespun sense of humor." Uncle Cobb died on Jan. 28, 1951, and was buried in his native soil.

You can read more about Cobb Shinn in Sylvia C. Henricks' "Sharp Mind and Clever Pen" in the Winter 1997 issue of Traces, the magazine of the Indiana Historical Society (the source of the quote above).

Two designs from the early days of picture postcards. I believe these to be the work of Cobb Shinn. Neither card is signed, but both have the initals "C.S." followed by a three-digit number printed on the back. Shinn is known to have drawn postcards depicting Dutch children. Holland and its people were popular subjects for artists and writers of his time.
The cover of Cobb Shinn's Fun-Artists Picture-Show-Book (1924), a compilation of shadow plays, magic tricks, riddles, rebuses, and other activities, perhaps taken from Shinn's newspaper features. . .
And a picture from the book with a saying as true now as it has ever been.

NoteThis posting is taken from my website and the first of my Cartoonist of the Month entries. Wait awhile, and I'll have my blog and website up to date.

Text and captions copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley